Book Review: Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

Book Review: Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

Pub. Date: 31st March 2011 (UK) 1993 (Aus)
Publisher: Quercus (UK)
Pages: 284
Series: Tomorrow (#1)
Readership: Young adult
Genres: Action/adventure, dystopia
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: Paperback
More: Goodreads

Synopsis from Goodreads: When Ellie and her friends go camping, they have no idea they’re leaving their old lives behind forever. Despite a less-than-tragic food shortage and a secret crush or two, everything goes as planned. But a week later, they return home to find their houses empty and their pets starving. Something has gone wrong–horribly wrong. Before long, they realize the country has been invaded, and the entire town has been captured–including their families and all their friends. Ellie and the other survivors face an impossible decision: They can flee for the mountains or surrender. Or they can fight.

I love that Tomorrow When the War Began is set in the 90s (first published in 1993). It is refreshing to read about teenage lives without the technology we are so used to, like high speed internet or smartphones. I couldn’t help but wonder what it’d be like to have my country invaded and not be able to text or call to see where my friends and family were, read the news on my iPhone, or head straight to Twitter to see what other people are saying. Technology is such a huge part of our lives now that it was actually exciting to go back to a time (which, of course, was not actually that long ago – in my lifetime!) when we did not have instant access to information. The group of teenagers – Ellie, Lee, Corrie, Homer, Kevin, Robyn and Fiona – have absolutely no way of communicating with anyone.

Nothing in Tomorrow When the War Began is simply black or white. I am used to seeing a strict dichotomy in YA dystopian literature: citizens good, government bad, yet this novel does not take that standpoint. Ellie, our narrator, in particular struggles with the concept of ‘evil’. The teenagers understand why soldiers have invaded Australia (although they definitely do not like it!). We do not know much about them, except that they do not speak English and are from a poor, marginalised country. The teenagers also feel that America does not like to get involved in other countries unless absolutely necessary. I really do like that John Marsden did not take a neutral, objective view. This series is the ‘most popular book series for young adults ever written in Australia’ and I can imagine it being a source of debate (much like the group of teenagers do) in the classroom, and like a little lesson on history, politics, and ethics.

The scene in Tomorrow When the War Began that I found most terrifying has to be when the group come back from camp (at the beginning of the book) and slowly start to realise that something is terribly wrong – that their country has been invaded. It was a lot less brutal and horrifying than what I’ve read in other novels, but it had a huge impact on me. An ordinary day out turns into a horrible nightmare within minutes. I was able to vividly imagine the scene even though it’d be completely different for me since I live in London. It’s actually something I had thought about even before picking up this book. I was even slightly worried that I’d have a nightmare, but luckily I didn’t!

Tomorrow is a seven-book long series and I’ve already started reading the second. I also have the movie adaptation to watch and I’ll be looking to see whether the fear and eeriness of the book is captured. It is about the courage, bravery, and intelligence of seven strong teenager characters, each with very different personalities that play a crucial role in survival; an exciting action-adventure that ends with a bang.

Thank you Quercus for providing this book for review!

18 thoughts on “Book Review: Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

  1. I’ve already watched the movie a couple of times. It never gets old! I actually started reading the book a few days ago. 🙂

  2. The Tomorrow-series was my and my used-to-be-best friend biggest obesession about ten years ago when we were between 13-17. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve read them, but it’s definetly more than 20 times, at least for the first five.
    I remember when we waited for the seventh book, it was worse than waiting for a Harry Potter! The last few weeks before the release we went in to the bookstore every single day and asked for it, just in case. Imagine our horror when the day finally came and it was delayed from the publishing company, first because the translation to Swedish took more time than expected and then due to some error with the printing! It was released, finally, the day before we had a big test in physics. Yeah, that test didn’t go very well…

    We were obsessed by this series in the same way that people say that they are Potterheads (lovelovelove HP!), Twihards (yuck!), or Tributes (love the two first, were a bit disappointed in the third, I felt it was too rushed).

    Anyway, sorry, didn’t mean to rant about it. I’m just always so happy when someone reads them and likes them. They were the books that more than any defined my teens.

    Love your Tumblr, by the way!

    • No need to apologise! It’s so nice to hear. I don’t think they were that popular in the UK as I don’t remember seeing them. I only found out about them because of the surge in popularity in YA dystopia. I’m halfway through the next book and currently enjoying it 🙂

  3. This sounds very interesting! I love the premise for this book and hope I can pick it up one day. Thanks for the helpful review! 🙂

  4. I really loved this book! I managed to find all but the first book in a charity shop for 50p each and I snapped them up as quickly as I could. I’ve only read the first two but I’m really looking forward to reading the rest..

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  6. This sounds like a great book! I can’t wait to read this!

  7. when was the invasion in the book whick page???

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  10. This is one of my fave all time series.. I have read them so man times. It would be so different if they were written now, but maybe not, maybe the technology would’ve got shut down.

  11. nice review!
    p.s paragraph 1 at the end you forgot robyn he he 🙂

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